June 3, 2016

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Sydney Beckmann Wins Best Paper Award at VSU Symposium

Pictured are Sydney Beckmann and Dr. Brian Gerber, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

VALDOSTA — Sydney Beckmann’s “Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner?” won the Best Paper Award at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by Valdosta State University.

“Mary Magdalene is widely considered to be a prostitute, yet there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that attributes this character trait to her,” said the 22-year-old who graduated from VSU on May 7 with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religious studies and a double minor in German and Native American studies.

“Through the process of examining the four canonical gospels, looking at the history of the patriarchal Greco-Roman society, and examining several non-canonical texts, I argue that Mary Magdalene was actually one of Jesus’s most important companions.”

Beckmann’s award-winning research, which took three years to complete, was guided by Dr. Fred Downing, head of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

All freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors at VSU were invited to submit proposals for the 22nd annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Individual academic departments and colleges then selected the university’s best paper, poster, and video research presentations, as well as creative arts exhibits, to be featured throughout the four-day event and to compete for prizes.

“Each year I am incredibly impressed with the quality of our undergraduate student research, scholarship, and creative work,” said Dr. James LaPlant, assistant vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School. “The students are making original contributions to the body of knowledge of their disciplines. Many of the students are doing research that we often do not see until the graduate level.”

The Undergraduate Research Symposium reflects VSU’s commitment to increasing the opportunities available for undergraduate students to participate in research through specialized courses, engagement in internships and service learning, and other opportunities. This has many benefits, according to the university’s Council on Undergraduate Research, as students who engage in research activities are able to build relationships resulting in enhanced learning with their faculty mentors, are more likely to be retained, are more likely to pursue advanced degrees, have an increased knowledge base of research methodology, and are more likely to promote an innovation-oriented culture.

As a student Beckmann served as president of Four Directions (Native American Student Association), president of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Club, secretary and treasurer of the German Club, and secretary of the Association for Computing Machinery. A regular on the Dean’s List, she earned the 2016 Carol Locust Academic Achievement Award, the 2015 and 2016 Outstanding Student in Philosophy and Religious Studies Award, the 2015 Sharonda L. James Memorial Award, and the 2014 Undergraduate Research Award for Humanities. She was selected by the VSU faculty and staff for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

Beckmann plans to pursue a Master of Theological Studies at the University of Notre Dame and hopes to someday teach at the collegiate level. She is the daughter of Dr. Lavonna Lovern of Nashville.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals: 

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/administration/planning/strategic-plan.php to learn more.